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Leyte town counts on springs to boost tourism

With extensive promotion and backing of experts, the town of Burauen, Leyte is off to a good start in its goal to market the area as the spring capital of Leyte.

The local government has been consulting with industry experts on how to develop the town’s eco-tourism sites in a sustainable manner.

Among them are former actress and UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate Antoinette Taus, former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, and Asean Center for Biodiversity Director Mundita Lim.

In an interview with Philippine News Agency, town Mayor Juanito Renomeron said with the limitations of the local government, they have been seeking assistance from experts and advocates on how to carry out the Burauen Eco-tourism and Sustainable Tourism (BEST) project.

“We are embarking into something new to us, yet we are aware that this is something that will help improve our economy. We have to recognize the need to develop tourism as a way to improve the lives of people,” Renomeron said.

The mayor noted that many tourists have been coming to their town to visit cold spring resorts especially during sunny days, but a lot of work has to be done to develop nature tourism.

“The town has many areas potential for eco-tourism since we are gifted with a lot of cold springs. We hired a team of consultants to help us our effort in the next two years,” he added.

The team is headed by Joselito Costas, founder of Grassroots Travel, the group behind the development and promotion of Bojo River in Aloguinsan, Cebu.

On August 2, experts came to the town for the first-ever tourism summit to share market development, heritage, civil society and private sector partnership, farm tourism, and conservation. Joining the summit are village officials, leaders of people’s organization, and investors.

Taus said these efforts make Burauen town ahead of other local government units in the country especially that sustainability is in the heart of the program.

“With eco-tourism, visitors are looking for new and exciting places and they want to connect with nature. We are here to support and we’ll be coming again to experience tourism first hand,” she said.

Lim, meanwhile, said through sustainable tourism and promotion efforts, more people would be interested to see what’s unique in the mountains of Leyte.

“This is a very good step forward for everyone to recognize that they will be able to see something different in the heart of Leyte. We are happy to work with Burauen to strengthen sustainable tourism activities and protect Burauen’s biodiversity,” Lim told summit participants.

Gabor, in her message, lauded the local government for allowing local stores instead of big chains to flourish.

“I was touched to see stores selling local products unique in Burauen. Tourists will come here not to buy souvenirs and taste the food available in big cities, but to get something that they have not seen in other places,” she said.

Renomeron said the local government initially identified eco-tourism sites in the villages of Matin-ao, Tambis, Villa Rosas, Abuyogon, Cansiboy, and Kagbana.

These areas are seen as an addition to Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park, a site proclaimed as a national park in 1937. The site is endowed with other natural attractions – a lake, falls, multi-colored mud, virgin forests, and lagoon. Mahagnao, which has been drawing nature-loving tourists, is 18 kilometers away from the town center of Burauen.

Burauen is derived from the word “Burabod” which means “spring”.

The town is known as the fountainhead of several rivers – the big Daguitan and Marabong rivers, the Guinarona and Hibuga rivers that pass through several neighboring towns, as well as several smaller ones.

The town, with a land area of over 30,000 hectares divided into 77 villages, has its own water system.

From Tacloban City, where the airport is located, the site is an hour trip by land through a 50-kilometer trip. The town is situated in the central part of Leyte Island by two cities and eight towns. (Sarwell Meniano and Roel Amazona/Philippine News Agency)

Top photo: The Lake Malagsum within the Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park in Burauen, Leyte, one the natural tourism assets in this town. The local government is counting on springs to develop its local tourism industry. (Photo courtesy of Burauen local government)

Duty Free Philippines opens first supermarket inside NAIA Terminal 3

Passengers passing through Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 will be treated to a wide selection of products from chocolates, perfumes, apparel, home furnishing, wines and liquors, cigarettes, sporting goods – and even groceries.

Duty Free Philippines (DFP) has opened its first supermarket inside an airport located at the DFP Arrival Mall, South Arrival Lobby, NAIA Terminal 3, making traveling and shopping much easier.

DFP Chief Operating Officer Vicente Pelagio Angala said the supermarket offers a complete section featuring dedicated wall bays and an increased product assortment to better serve travelers with a fully stocked supermarket right at the airport.

“We came up with this idea to raise the bar of the Duty Free pasalubong shopping experience. Instead of buying grocery items abroad that will add up to their baggage fees, they can shop the same brands when they arrive at the airport at a duty-free price,” Angala said.

“Other than keeping yourself from paying unnecessary baggage fees, this also adds convenience. Imagine arriving at the airport after a vacation or working abroad, one can just conveniently grab groceries or do grocery shopping with their family,” he added.

The over 800 square-meter supermarket boasts of a complete section of grocery items for mass consumption such as laundry detergents, shampoo, condiments, canned goods, frozen foods, and snacks.

It also has shelves for cereals, baby care, pasta and noodles, cheese, yogurt, and other items.

Top photo: The newly opened Duty Free Philippines supermarket at the DFP Arrival Mall located at the south arrival lobby of NAIA Terminal 3 (Photo courtesy of Duty Free Philippines)

PH considers overhauling of visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese travelers

Logistical considerations are among the factors being taken up by the Philippine government over the proposal on whether to refine or scrap outright the visa upon arrival (VUA) policy for Chinese travelers, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“China is a very big country. There are many people who come from remote provinces of China, so the question is do we have enough consular offices to handle. If the DFA says we can do that, we have been doing that before, well and good, no problem with us, we will consider reviewing the mechanism of visa upon arrival with the coordination of Bureau of Immigration and DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs),” Guevarra said.

Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete, meanwhile, said any refinement of the VUA, if adopted, would include safeguards to prevent abuse.

“Definitely the requirements on who may be able to avail visa upon arrival would have to be reviewed as well if the option is to refine the system to avoid abuses,” he explained.

Perete also said the final decision on whether to scrap the VUA policy will come after balancing a number of concerns.

“At the moment, the informal proposal ng BI is to refine the system, but the proposal came before (DFA) secretary (Teodoro) Locsin came up with the proposal to scrap it, we will have to see, we will have to balance the differing interests, and differing demands from the sectors. The visas upon arrival were the demand of the Department of Tourism before, so probably, its now put in place,” Perete added.

Guevarra said they will also consider the issue of security raised by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, among others.

“Meron ding (There is also a) concern on undocumented Chinese nationals are coming over, or documented but doing something else, so that is something we should also take into account,” he said.

The DOJ chief said one of the concerns of the BI is that the usual three-month visa, which is renewable for another three months, is being abused by foreigners who then go to work without acquiring the required work permits. (Benjamin Pulta, PNA)

New Manila International Airport in Bulacan construction to start this year

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) recently announced that the construction works for the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in Bulacan will begin this year.

The PHP735.6 billion project’s construction, operation, and maintenance are set to be awarded to San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMHC), after no other company challenged the original proponent during a bidding by the DOTr’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) at the DOTr office in Clark, Pampanga.

DOTr Assistant Secretary for Communications Goddes Hope Libiran said the next step in the process would be the issuance of a notice of award (NOA) to SMHC within the next five days followed by a notice to proceed (NTP).

“Yung NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) board approval, tapos na yun (that’s done). That was given before the Swiss Challenge. Next step is the issuance of an NOA (within 5 days) and then issuance of the NTP,” Libiran said.

DOTr Assistant Secretary for Procurement and Project Implementation Giovanni Lopez, who also leads the BAC, said once the SMHC has received their NOA, they have 20 days to comply with certain requirements.

“On the notice of award, there are some conditions that should be complied with. These include post-performance security, proof of commitment, among others as stated in the law. They (SMHC) have 20 days to do so,” Lopez said.

The performance security to be required from the SMHC will vary between one or a combination of cash, irrevocable letter of credit and surety bond.

“Cash – a minimum of 2% of the project cost; irrevocable letter of credit – a minimum of 5% of project cost; surety bond – a minimum of 10%,” Libiran said.

Meanwhile, DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said the NMIA will only be part of a “basket of solutions” introduced by the Duterte administration.

“This new international airport is important in helping ease the congestion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Together with the expansion of Clark Airport and the construction of additional facilities at Sangley Airport, Bulacan Airport is part of ‘baskets of solutions’ to bring further connectivity to the Filipino people,” Tugade said.

The new international gateway is expected to be operational within four to six years from the start of construction this year.

The NMIA is designed to have a capacity of 100 million passengers per year which can later be expanded to 200 million.

With its four parallel runways planned, the airport targets 240 aircraft movements per hour.

An 8.4-kilometer tollway connecting the airport to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in Marilao, Bulacan is also planned to be constructed as part of the project. (Raymond Carl Dela Cruz, PNA)

PH airports waves terminal fees for students

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) issued a memorandum on July 26, 2019, directing all airports to exempt students from paying terminal fee.

Filipino students from nursery to college, including those enrolled in Trade, Arts, and technical vocational schools are indicated in the said memorandum.

However, those enrolled in dancing, driving schools, culinary arts, and seminar-type short term courses, and students taking up Medicine, Law, masters and doctorate degrees, could not avail of this privilege.

For those who have already paid the terminal fee at point of sale of an airline ticket, they can seek a refund at Malasakit Centers (Malasakit Help Desks) located inside the airport.

Students must fill up the application form for Student Exemption Certificate. A photocopy of a student ID or current school registration card will also be required. (Filane Mikee Cervantes, PNA)

Tourists satisfied with Boracay rehab

The Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) has drawn positive feedback from tourists since the world-famous Boracay Island reopened in October last year.

SATISFIED CLIENTS. Tourists enjoy the world-renowned Boracay Island. The Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group said on Thursday (July 18, 2019) the rehabilitation of the island has drawn positive feedback from tourists. (File photo)

“The tourists coming in are happy that Boracay is no longer a cesspool and the traffic congestion was addressed,” Natividad Bernardino, general manager of the BIARMG, said in a phone interview Thursday.

She said the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) project phase 1 has widened road network from the Cagban Jetty Port to the semi-central Boracay district and has cut the travel time of tourists.

Phase 2, which includes the completion of Boracay’s drainage system, is expected to be finished in mid-2020.

“If tourists experience traffic congestion, it is because of the ongoing road works of the phase 2 project of DPWH,” she said.

The flooding in the villages of Manoc-Manoc and Balabag on Wednesday was also seen to have been caused by the ongoing DPWH project.

Bernardino assured the task force works to implement mitigating measures in the reported flooding.

“We deployed pumps to flush out rainwater,” she said.

Meanwhile, Boracay vendors, who were the fixture of the beachfront before the rehabilitation, are now more organized in their designated areas.

This is also considered one of the notable achievements of the rehabilitation, Bernardino said.

More developments are to be seen in the economic part of the island as the local government of Malay is also considering to relocate the vendors to a better tourism market.

“But in the meantime, our vendors are here on the beachfront,” she said.

Bernardino said the task force has seen more and more commercial establishments on the island being compliant with environmental laws.

These environmental laws include the Clean Air Act; Clean Water Act; Hazardous Waste Law; Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act 9003); and Presidential Decree 1586 or the establishment of an environmental impact system.

Aside from the establishments, she said tourists also obey the local ordinances.

Bernardino said violations of the smoking and liquor drinking ban on the beachfront are “very seldom” recorded.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the environmental rehabilitation of the island in April 2018.

For the latest updates about this story, visit the Philippine News Agency website. (Gail Momblan, Philippine News Agency)

IN JAN-MAY 2019: PH receives 3.5-million foreign tourists

About 3.5 million tourists from all over the world visited the Philippines in the first five months of 2019, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The 3,489,270 total number of tourists in the Philippines from January to May 2019 marks a 9.76 percent increase from last year’s 3,178,984 figures.

Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said “the numbers are very encouraging. From 3,178,984 tourists recorded from January to May in 2018, we are already close to breaching the 3.5 million mark this year. This only shows that the preservation of our environment can go hand in hand with economic gains.”

Puyat said she is also pleased to note that for the month of May, tourist arrivals saw an impressive 15.62 percent growth, the highest month-per-month growth rate this year, from 537,743 last year to 621,719 this year.

The country’s number one source market, South Korea, continues its foothold in the top spot with 788,530 Jan-May arrivals, chalking up an 11.76 percent growth rate comprising 22.6 percent of the total arrivals.

China trails closely behind with 733,769 arrivals for a staggering 30.96 percent increase and with a 21.03 percent market share.

Sustaining its third and fourth rankings are the USA with 472,469 (+1.98%) and Japan with 281,988 (+2.19%).

Another market with a remarkable double-digit growth rate is Taiwan at the fifth place with 128,986 (+27.24%).

Australia with 123,851 (+2.7%), Canada with 114,605 (+5.01%), and the United Kingdom with 92,914 (+3.49%) posted positive growth placing sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively.

Singapore followed at the ninth spot with 64,951 (-14.38%) with Malaysia winding up the top ten markets with 62,144 (+1.81%). (DOT)

5-minute Cubao-Makati travel time possible — DPWH

A five-minute travel time from Cubao in Quezon City to Makati City is doable with the completion of several infrastructure projects in Metro Manila, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said on July 1, 2019.

On the sidelines of the Pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) Economic and Infrastructure Forum in Pasay City, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said that 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles are expected to decongest Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) once the major projects are opened by the end of the year.

“When the President ran, he promised he would finish traffic in Edsa. In order for us to do that, we computed and we needed to take out 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles a day,” he said.

“To revert back to a level of traffic when we finished the Skyway Project it will reduce traffic by 100,000 vehicles. When the NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) Harbor Link connector is completed it will minimize 50,000 vehicles. When C-6 is finished we reduce another 50,000,” the DPWH chief added.

The completion of other bridges surrounding Edsa will lessen 50,000 vehicles.

“‘(The) Harbor Link, syempre malaki mababawas sa (of course, it will help lessen vehicles passing through) Edsa. Some projects directly affect Edsa. But overall, we expect that the President’s statements are backed by very solid projects,” the DPWH chief explained.

Earlier, Duterte said that travel between Cubao to Makati could be reduced to five minutes by end of the year. The current travel time is at least one hour.

The Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 is an 18.68-km elevated expressway from Buendia, Makati City to the North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak, Quezon City. The portion along President Quirino Avenue in Manila will open this year.

On the other hand, the 5.58-kilometer NLEX Harbor Link, Segment 10 connecting McArthur Highway and C-3 was inaugurated last February 28 and opened to traffic on March 1.

The C-5 South Link Expressway is a 7.7-kilometer expressway stretching from R-1 Expressway to SLEX/C5. Travel time will be reduced from 40 minutes to 10 minutes. Segment 3A1 — Merville to C5/SLEX is targeted to be opened on July 22.

Also, Villar reported they were able to build and lay the ground work for the 1,049 kilometers of new high-standard highways and expressways in Luzon, Cebu and Davao with a total investment cost of USD15 billion (PHP776 billion).

Under the Duterte administration, he added that 2,709 bridges were constructed, widened, upgraded, rehabilitated and strengthened.

Aside from Villar, another member of the Infrastructure Cluster, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president and CEO Vicencio Dizon reported on the progress of the New Clark City, which will be the country’s first smart and green city.

The New Clark City, located in Capas, Tarlac, and measuring 9,500 hectares will be a major alternative growth area out of Metro Manila.

“New Clark City will serve as a catalyst for national growth moving forward, with private sector partners investing in the development of commercial areas and industrial parks,” he said.

Other officials of the economic cluster who were present during the event were Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Persia, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Pena, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Tourism Undersecretary Art Boncato, and Budget and Management OIC-Secretary Janet Abuel.

Also present at the first of the three-part fora meant to report on the government’s accomplishments under the Duterte administration, ahead of the President’s SONA on July 22, 2019, were Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Information and Communications Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio.

The second forum to be held in Cebu City on July 10 will report on accomplishments related to the “Patuloy na Malasakit at Pagkakaisa” agenda (which is focused on human development).

The third discussion is scheduled to be held in Davao City on July 17, will report on the accomplishments related to the “Patuloy na Katatagan” agenda (which is focused on security and disaster resiliency). (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

Cambodia extends visa-free entry for Filipinos to 30 days

The Royal Government of Cambodia has approved a 30-day, visa-free entry policy to Filipino travelers, the Philippine embassy in Cambodia announced on June 13, 2019.

Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. (Photo source: Xinhua News)

According to the embassy, Cambodia “agreed, in the spirit of reciprocity,” to its request to extend the initial period of stay for Philippine passport holders without a visa to 30 days upon arrival.

Prior to the extension, Filipinos are only allowed 21days of visa-free stay in Cambodia.

In its announcement, the embassy also reminded Filipinos intending to stay in Cambodia for more than 60 days “to apply for a visa upon arrival at the port of entry in Cambodia to avoid inconvenience.”

Cambodia, home to the famed temple complex of Angkor Wat, is one of the major tourist destinations for Filipinos traveling in Southeast Asia. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA)

DOTr orders 24/7 construction of Sangley airport

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade has directed the 24/7 construction of Sangley airport in Cavite to meet the operational timeline set by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Tugade ordered the hiring of additional manpower, the implementation of extended working hours, and the infusion of additional equipment starting Thursday, June 13.

“Whatever it takes, we need to make sure that the directive of the President is delivered. Hire more manpower to work 24/7. Kailangan matapos ‘yan (That needs to be finished) on or before the timeline set by President Duterte,” Tugade said.

In compliance with Tugade’s directive to speed up the construction of the Sangley airport, DOTr Assistant Secretary for Procurement and Project Implementation Giovanni Lopez met with members of “Task Force Sangley” on Wednesday, attended by representatives from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Philippine Air Force (PAF), the ferry system, and the project contractor.

Lopez said the critical developments in the project are well underway, including the runway, apron, Passenger Terminal Building, its power supply, drainage system, and site development.

Lopez said Tugade’s instructions to CAAP is to work closely with the DOTr on the civil works so that the support facilities can be immediately incorporated for the airport to commence operations at the soonest time possible.

A synchronization matrix will be submitted as a guide for monitoring, Lopez said.

During the meeting, an ocular inspection was also held at the possible site of the ferry station, wherein the contractor was given two months to construct the port in coordination and compliance with the regulations of Philippine Ports Authority, CAAP, PAF, and the Philippine Navy.

The contractor has agreed to the submission of a weekly progress report alongside a weekly site visit and inspection by the DOTr for close monitoring of the construction progress.